Apple season is more than apple picking! In the Carolinas it means donuts, cider, slushies, festivals, photo ops, and orchard trips for the whole family. Despite the fact that apple season conjures up images of cool fall weather, Carolina favorites such as Honeycrisp and Early Macs begin ripening in early August. Certain kinds, such as Pink Ladies and Arkansas Blacks are available until late October.
Throughout the season, orchards in the Carolinas offer apple picking while towns and villages celebrate with seasonal festivals. Apple lovers will rejoice to find apple-themed treats and a variety of fruit to bring home. Below, we’re highlighting the best apple picking and our favorite apple festivals in NC and SC so you can get in on the harvest festivities.
NC and SC Apple Festivals
The climate in parts of NC and SC is conducive to apple cultivation. The mountainous regions of Western North Carolina and the upstate regions of South Carolina have cooler temperatures and well-defined seasons, which are ideal for growing apples. These areas provide the necessary cold winter chill hours and warm summers that many apple varieties require.
Apple orchards have become popular tourist destinations! People visit orchards in the fall to go apple picking, enjoy hayrides, and savor apple-based products like cider and apple pies. This agritourism boosts the local economy and creates a demand for apple production.
Apples from NC and SC can reach local markets quickly and fresher than those transported from farther away. Families and communities have been growing apples for generations, making it an integral part of the local agricultural heritage. The revenue generated from apple production, processing, and sales supports many jobs and businesses in the region. Check out some of our picks for the best apple picking festivals in the Carolinas.
NC Apple Festival
The North Carolina Apple Festival brings crowds from across the state each year over Labor Day Weekend in Hendersonville, NC. The festival has been a family-friendly favorite for over 60 years. Since North Carolina is the 7th largest apple-producing state and Hendersonville grows more than 65% of the state’s apples, there’s plenty to celebrate!
Along the festival’s street fair you can buy bushels of apples, fresh baked apple goods, and treats such as apple cider and apple butter from 15 local apple growers. The Family Fun Zone includes rides and inflatables for the little ones while the whole family will enjoy the King Apple Parade, held at 2:30pm on Labor Day Monday annually. Ongoing live entertainment is staged in front of the courthouse and tasty treats can be found all day at the food court. Keep an eye on the NC Apple Festival website for updates and apple picking news.
Date: September 1-4
Location: 318 North Main Street Hendersonville, NC 28792
SC Apple Festival
A longstanding tradition since 1961, the South Carolina Apple Festival marks the start of apple picking season in the area. Completely run by volunteers, this festival provides two days of live music, craft displays, and even a rodeo. Visitors can purchase handmade goods from vendors and even enjoy a bite to eat from local food trucks.
As can be expected, there are apples galore in the form of jams, preserves, and countless other items. For visitors looking for something a little more filling, there are plenty of southern barbecue offerings. Home chefs young and old can show off their kitchen skills by entering the Apple Baking Contest. Cash prizes vary according to age group.
Date: September 8-9
Location: Main St., Westminster, SC 29693
York Apple Harvest Festival
If you want to avoid the larger crowd at the South Carolina Apple Festival, pay a visit to the York Apple Harvest Festival. From 10 AM – 6 PM every third Saturday of October, Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery hosts this annual fall event that celebrates the world of apples and apple picking!
Bring the kids along for a quintessential South Carolina hayride, or show off your competitive side by entering an apple peeling contest. Little ones will be excited to gather ‘round for stories about the legendary Johnny Appleseed, while virtually everyone will want to sample at least one (and probably more) of the many apple-themed baked goods offered.
Location: Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery, 1860 Black Highway, York, SC 29745
Waynesville Apple Harvest Festival
Named as one of the “10 best fall harvest festivals in the nation”, the Apple Harvest Festival in charming downtown Waynesville is in it’s 34th year of operation. Each October, the festival celebrates all things apple picking and includes almost 200 art and craft booths, food concessions, music, cloggers, old fashioned games, and more.
Local apple growers offer a variety of mountain grown apples and vendors sell a range of apple cider, caramel apples, apple pies, apple tarts, apple cakes, and many other apple delights. Guests can also try their hand at hand-cranking apple cider, then enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Date: October 21
Location: Main St, Waynesville, NC 28786
Brushy Mountain Apple Festival
As one of the largest one-day arts and crafts festivals in the Southeast, the Brushy Mountain Apple Festival attracts more than 160,000 guests annually. The streets of downtown North Wilkesboro are lined with over 425 vendors and 100 food stands. Plus, the festival includes four different music stages with live entertainment including cloggers, jump ropers, and square dancers. The festival is held on October 7 and highlights the apple picking selections from several local growers.
Date: October 7
Location: 832 Main Street, North Wilkesboro, NC 28659
Lincoln County Apple Festival
Each October, the Lincoln County Apple Festival draws crowds of apple-lovers for this one-day-only event in downtown Lincolnton. With two entertainment stages, there’s live music and dance throughout the day ranging from blues to rock and oldies. The festival features five local apple growers and more than 250 vendors with crafts for sale. A farmer’s market and food concessions will keep your belly happy while the kids' apple picking orchard will keep your little ones entertained.
Date: October 21
Location: 115 W Main St., Lincolnton, NC 28092
NC and SC Apple Orchards and Apple Picking
Grandad’s Apples N Such
Grandad’s Apples N Such in Hendersonville offers more than 30 different apple varieties such as Ginger Gold, Red Rome, Braeburn, and Pink Lady. The farm is typically open for guests from mid August through fall. The 100-acre apple picking family farm has been in operation since 1994, with four generations of apple growers working the orchard.
The bakery offers delicious hot cider donuts, apple pies, and apple slushies that can’t be missed. You can also find apple turnovers, caramel apples, and apple bread in the country store along with apple gifts and fall harvest decorations for your home. On weekends during the season, Grandad’s Apples N Such offers family friendly activities that include a corn maze, apple cannon, and cow train.
Location: 2951 Chimney Rock Road Hendersonville, NC 28792
Apple Hill Orchard & Cider Mill
For five generations, the Prewitt family has been growing apples in Morganton, NC. Apple Hill Orchard & Cider Mill grows 22 varieties of apples with 1-2 new varieties being harvested weekly from mid August to October.
The farm market is open select days during July and August for apple picking. From mid-August, they’re open 6 days a week until Christmas Eve. The market offers honey, jams, fruit butters, and fresh apples. Apple Hill Orchard is known for their flavorsome cider. In fact, during peak season they press several 600 gallon batches per week. The bakery includes a wide array of scratch-made products including apple donuts, crumb-top apple pie, apple pie brittle, apple muffins, fried apple pies, and apple cakes.
Location: 2075 Pleasant Hill Ave. Morganton NC, 28655
Millstone Creek Orchards
Millstone Creek Orchards is a family owned and operated apple picking orchard that began in 2001 that now has 18 acres of blackberries, blueberries, pumpkins, apples, peaches, grapes, and pecans available for u-pick. The orchard hosts a variety of events throughout the year such as the waterfront concert series in the summer and open catch and release fishing in the spring.
Apple picking at Millstone Creek Orchards starts in late August and runs through September with 10 varieties available. Granny’s Kitchen on the orchard bakes up more than a dozen different tasty treats and each fall, apple cider (served warm or as a slushy) and apple doughnuts make an appearance.
Location: 506 Parks Crossroads Church Rd. Ramseur, North Carolina 27316
The Justus family has been growing apples in Hendersonville for four generations. A visit to their family orchard includes u-pick options, a cow train for the kids, and a chance to see the farm animals. Justus Orchard grows 19 varieties of apples available for picking including Jonagold, Summerset, and Crimson Crisp.
Stop by the charming apple house to pick up homemade honey, jams, and preserves or visit the bakery for warm and delicious fried apple pies, apple cider donuts, and apple bread. Grab a cider slushy, take a stroll to the pond to watch the ducks, and enjoy the beautiful mountain views with a taste of farm life.
Location: 187 Garren Rd. Hendersonville NC 28792
Sky Top Orchard
The Butler family began the Sky Top apple farm in the late 1960s as a commercial operation in Western North Carolina. Over the decades, the farm changed into an apple picking destination. A visit to Sky Top Orchard brings much more than just apple picking, though that is the main draw of this scenic farm.
When you arrive at Sky Top Orchard, you’ll be greeted by beautiful panoramic mountain views. Exploring the grounds takes you past ponds with ducks and geese, through a bamboo forest, and gives you a chance to view peacocks, goats, and more. You don’t want to miss the apple cider doughnuts and slushies – they’re a treat that everyone will enjoy!
Sky Top Orchard has a wide range of apple varieties including Pink Lady, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Red Delicious. Their picking season typically begins in late July or early August and runs through the end of October. Dates vary, so keep an eye on the apple picking schedule on their website for updates.
Location: 1193 Pinnacle Mountain Rd, Flat Rock, NC 28731
Bryson’s Apple Orchard
The season for apple picking in South Carolina wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Bryson’s Apple Orchard. This apple orchard is one of the most popular destinations for apple lovers across the state. Tracing its roots to the 1960s, Bryson’s Apple Orchard is a family owned business that provides plenty of tasty apple-based items like canned goods and jellies.
Visitors will also want to try some of the local honey created on-site by the orchard’s honeybees. Bring home a container of sorghum syrup for your homemade biscuits for an extra-special treat. Not sure what to purchase? Bryson’s offers free samples of cider and other treats to help you decide!
Location: 1011 Chattooga Ridge Road, Mountain Rest, South Carolina 29664
Visit MacGregor Orchard to indulge not only in fresh, crisp apples but also figs, apricots, persimmons, Asian pears, and more! If you don’t feel up to creating your own food from the produce, stop by their store for premade apple butter, fruit preserves, apple sauce, and local honey. If you’re planning your South Carolina apple picking trip around Halloween, don’t forget to pick up a couple of their pumpkins and gourds for sale.
They’ve also partnered with Glassy Mountain View Farms to offer Black Angus beef from cattle raised in pastures. You may even be able to take home some handmade pottery to go along with your food purchases. For example, they sometimes offer apple pie dishes, crafted by Carolina experts at Mud Dabbers.
Location: 2400 SC-11, Travelers Rest, SC 29690
Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery
Windy Hill Orchard & Cidery markets itself as a “boutique” apple picking orchard in South Carolina. With a decades-long history, this orchard is known for its hard cider that it’s been crafting on-site since 1996. Not only does their location produce cider for cities throughout South Carolina, but it even sells to locations in North Carolina. With special concoctions like cider slushies and apple cider donuts, this location is a must for apple aficionados.
If you prefer to pick your own apples, you’ll need to make a reservation ahead of time. Keep in mind that the apple picking orchard only offers Stayman Winesap apples through their “u-pick” options. Watch their event calendar for updates about music events held on the premises. While their orchard is only open to the public during harvest season, their cider bar is open on certain weekends during the spring season.
Location: 1860 Black Highway York, SC 29745
Blue Haven Orchards
Blue Haven Orchards is home to over 30 acres of apple trees in Long Creek, offering ample area to spend an afternoon apple picking with friends and family. Like any orchard, the variety available will depend on the time of year. Visit mid-August for Galas, mid-September for Granny Smiths, and early October for Fuji varieties.
In addition to apples, Blue Haven Orchards also sells seasonal vegetables grown in the area as well as fresh peaches. For visitors that want a quick on-the-go treat, they even sell slushies made on-site in flavors like muscadine and peach.
Location: 12500 Long Creek Hwy, Long Creek, SC 29658
Chattooga Belle Farm
For one of the widest selections of apple varieties in South Carolina, schedule a trip to Chattooga Belle Farm. Depending on the season, visitors can choose between apple types like Liberty, Golden Delicious, Arkansas Black, and more. In fact, this farm offers over 20 varieties of apples! Besides this large selection of apples to choose from, the farm creates wine in its distillery and even provides grass-fed beef for purchase.
Offering a bit of everything, the farm also serves as a wedding venue. If your wedding date lands in autumn, you may want to consider the site for your ceremony, framed by beautiful mountain views and lush orchards. Chattooga Belle Farm occasionally hosts farm-to-table dinners and music events, so don’t forget to peruse their calendar. Athletes may also want to bring their disc golf gear with them on their visit, as the location also boasts a disc golf course that’s open to visitors.
Location: 454 Damascus Church Rd, Long Creek, SC 29658
Apple Picking: Know Before You Go
These apple picking orchards can be very popular (read busy and crowded) on weekends from mid-August through October. Check the orchard website and Facebook page (if you can find it) before you go, because even the largest orchards will close their groves for a few days or weeks when they are picked out.
Even at higher elevations, the mosquitoes might be active, so bring along some insect spray. Make sure you save room for freshly made apple donuts and an apple slushy. Dress in layers for the higher elevations, as it can still be hot when picking apples on the mountains.
Remind your children that apples found on the ground should be left alone (we know, it seems like the prettiest apples are always on the ground, but you never know what animal also did its business in the same spot). After you go home, wash your harvest!